1 Peter 2:18–25 (NKJV)
Peter continues his discussion of honorable lives here, including the need for submission. The last passage instructed that citizens submit to ordinances and honor kings, while this passage takes it a step further toward servants honoring masters and wives honoring husbands. While this line of thinking does not sit well with many today who may read it, there is still a lesson to be learned here. Submission, in whatever situation one may be found, is Godly.
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.1 Peter 2:18-25
The first thing that must be said in response to this passage is that slavery is wrong in any form. Constrained service, sexual trafficking, or any other form of bondage or extortion, is wrong on any level. However, submitting to authority is a Godly attribute. Think of the example of Joseph, who was sold into slavery and wrongly accused, imprisoned for no sin of his own, yet because of his demeanor and excellent service, was elevated to a position second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. In that position, he was able to save his family and a nation. This is a perfect example of what Peter is speaking of here. There is no implicit endorsement of slavery here, but nevertheless there is an endorsement of hard work, cooperation, and chain of command. The principle he is promoting here is one of doing good even in a bad situation. Being disciplined when you are at fault is no credit to anyone. However, doing good while being oppressed shows the quality of one’s character.
Peter then gives the ultimate example of submission when doing good, Jesus Christ. He committed no sin, spoke no lies, did not lash out at others when they abused him. He took his suffering without striking back. He committed Himself to the One who judges righteously. He saw His path and His treatment as part of God’s greater plan for the salvation of mankind. His purpose was to bear the sins of mankind in His own body on the cross. He did all this to allow us to die to our own sins, and live for righteousness. The well-known statement concerning His power to heal comes next: “by whose stripes you were healed.” This is a restatement of Isaiah 53:5, moving from the present tense to the past tense. This is telling, since Jesus work was foretold in the prophetic passage in Isaiah, but now fulfilled in the recall of Peter’s letter. Healing is provided in the atonement, and is available for all who will believe. The atonement is so comprehensive and complete. Salvation, healing, reconciliation, justification, deliverance, peace with God, are all provided in the atonement. The final statement of this section says that anyone prior to salvation is like a sheep gone astray, but salvation through the atonement of Christ brings one back to the rightful Shepherd and Overseer of his or her soul. Restoration to a right relationship with God is the greatest aspect of the redemption through Christ.